(JTA) — Republican Glenn Youngkin, a businessman, has defeated former Gov. Terry McAuliffe to become Virginia’s governor in a race that was fraught with charges of antisemitism.
Local and national media organizations called the race, which was widely viewed as a barometer for Republican electoral strategy in the post-Trump era, early Wednesday morning.
Youngkin embraced former President Donald Trump in the primary but distanced himself from Trump in the general campaign, while still managing to retain the support of Trump’s core constituencies. He did so in part by crusading against “critical race theory,” in Virginia schools, where the academic idea that conservatives revile is not part of the curriculum.
Democrats made allegations that Youngkin and a number of Republicans running for House of Delegates races had crossed into antisemitism. In the case of Youngkin, Democrats singled out a campaign event in which Youngkin made the false claim that George Soros, the liberal Jewish billionaire, was planting political activists on school boards. Eileen Filler-Corn, the Jewish speaker of Virginia’s house, said at a Democratic fundraiser last month that Youngkin had been “spouting off antisemitic tropes, just to fire up his base” at a rally in her home district.
Youngkin denied the criticism. He said that he would combat antisemitism as governor, and he pledged to seek the legal adoption in Virginia of the International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance definition of antisemitism.
McAuliffe tried to make disgust with Trump central to his campaign. Virginians last year rejected Trump by a wide margin; he was especially reviled in the state for equivocating about a deadly 2017 white nationalist march in Charlottesville. A civil trial of the march’s organizers is underway now.
The Republican Jewish Coalition sent a press release celebrating Youngkin’s election on Tuesday night well before the race had been called. “Glenn Youngkin showed that it can be done — even in a “blue” state that went Democrat by 10%+ just a year ago — and we look forward to seeing and supporting many, many more Republican victories next November as well,” the group said.